When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people on the planet about what digital means to them, the answers are fascinating. This interview is the first of an ongoing series that offers real perspectives from real leaders on the ubiquitous topic of Digital.
Chief Anthony Holloway has served in the Police Department for 31 years, he’s been a Chief of Police for 10 years and for last 3 years he has served as Chief of Police for City of St Petersburg. I recently had the opportunity to ask this innovative, forward thinking leader, about Digital and what it means to him and his team.
Audrey McGuckin (AM) – Chief Holloway tell me about how external digital trends are impacting your Police Department here in St Petersburg?
Chief Holloway (CH) – Digital has made its way to our Police Department in a number of ways and here in the City of St Petersburg we have a some “digital firsts”. From a technology perspective, we are the first Police Department to have simulation equipment for our officers, which is based on augmented reality technology. Instead of us waiting every quarter to train our officers, we can train every night, we can train every day. If our sergeants or lieutenants see something they want to bring their squad in for, they can do it today. It gives us a chance for FAST FEEDBACK from our officers to see how he or she is going to react to certain situations. The simulator was $95,000 but it didn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The Police Department paid for it with seized drug money.
We are also the first Police Department to have new bullet-resistant vests that weigh less than 20lbs. These vests are as a result of a new technology in the marketplace. Our goal is that these lightweight vests will encourage our officers to wear them more often. Like many law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area, City of St Petersburg, does not require officers to always wear their bullet-resistant vests. So, the way to motivate officers to wear them more often is to offer more comfortable options. This is a priority for a department that lost three officers to gunfire in 2011. This initiative was funded in part by Lorraine Yaslowitz-Marino, whose husband was one of the St Petersburg officers lost in 2011.
Another technology we’ve leveraging is in the DNA field. I’m sure you saw the case reported recently in London, UK, where technology allowed us to solve a 35 year-old cold case from the DNA off a piece of chewing gum left at the murder scene.
AM – What other digital trends are you leveraging in the agency Chief Holloway?
CH – We are doing an outstanding job leveraging social media. I myself, maybe not so much, but we have a great communications team led by Yolanda Fernandez. She took us from having 6.000 followers to 26,000 followers in the last 24 months. However, there is a more important message here. It’s about connecting with our community. We are constantly looking for ways to connect with our community and that can take many different forms. We have to look at this with a multi-generational lens now and establish ways to connect with our younger generation in the City.
AM – Chief Holloway, not everyone is connected to social media. Tell me more about how you’re connecting with the community outside of social media.
CH – I have mandated a program called “Park, Walk and Talk”. Every single officer in this Police Department is mandated to get out of their cars and go and talk to people in the community. This is part of a culture change that we are seeing. A good cultural change that we’re all proud to be part of. It’s about forging strong relationships in the community.
AM – What else are you doing to invoke a culture change in this digital economy?
CH – I have changed the metrics in this agency. One example is, I don’t want to hear about how many arrests our officers have made. I want to know, how many citizens have you talked to, how many people have you met this week. By forging these STRONG COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS and networks, only then will we change the culture in our Police Departments.
AM – We talked about the multiple generations that exist in the community. What do your demographics look like in the Police Department?
CH – We now have four generations in our Police Department. Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials There’s a natural change that’s evolving as we hire new recruits. Our average age is 31. The new recruits we hire bring different ideas, innovation, new perspectives and in turn helps us create the right culture for our Police Department. We also have some outstanding long term Police Officers and they are helping nurture and mentor our new recruits as well as our new recruits mentoring us older guys. Every new recruit is required to participate in our Foundational Cultural Competency Training (a 4-part series designed to teach our personnel an appreciation of diversity and how to treat it as an asset).
AM – Do you have any other proof points Chief Holloway on the culture change in the Police Department.
CH – Yes. Last week we had a homicide, it took us 72 hours to solve this case. Not only because of our outstanding Police Officers, but because our community stepped forward to work together with us. Something else that’s interesting, is I was recently reviewing our metrics on complaints against Police Officers. 5 years ago we had between 20-30 complaints. Last year we had 6 complaints. We also have the lowest crime rate in 6 years!
CH – I am so proud of what we have achieved together here in St Petersburg. We have 562 officers in this city and a good day for me is when each and every one of them goes home safe. We have 250,000 residents in this city and a good day for me is when they all feel safe living in this city!
Yes, technology is moving at a rate of change that’s almost unimaginable and like the private sector, the public sector is trying to keep pace. St Petersburg Police Department are a great example of real solutions and real possibilities in the Digital Era. Chief Anthony Holloway is driving an agenda of collaboration, engagement and a culture of continuous improvement. Digital leaders are different. How are you planning and preparing? Audrey McGuckin, CEO and Founder www.audreymcguckin.com